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4 Theater, Temperance, and Popular Culture 131 Russia underwent a period of unprecedented industrial expansion during the last two decades of the nineteenth century that culminated in the industrial boom of the 1890s, which the state supported through high tariffs and orders for manufactured goods.The number of factories rose from 30,888 in 1887 to 39,029 in 1897, an increase of over 25 percent. Rapid industrial growth was accompanied by even more rapid urbanization, as peasants were drawn into the cash economy and increasingly sought temporary or permanent employment in large cities and factory towns. Migrants swelled St. Petersburg’s population from 1,033,600 in 1890 to 1,439,600 in 1900. Moscow grew at a similar pace, experiencing a 38 percent population increase between 1882 and 1897, when it counted just over 1 million inhabitants.1 Of course, not all newcomers to the city became factory workers. At the turn of the century, only 25 percent of St. Petersburg’s hired labor force were employed in factories; for Moscow, the figure was 21 percent. Other migrants found work as day laborers, domestic servants, waiters, seamstresses , and shop clerks. Nonetheless, the factory workforce increased significantly in absolute terms. The number of industrial workers in Moscow, for example, rose from 67,400 in 1890 to 99,300 in 1900, a 47.4 percent increase for the decade. In some factories the workforce expanded even more rapidly: by 1901 St. Petersburg’s Putilov metalworking plant employed 12,441 workers, up from only 2,306 five years earlier.2 Many factory workers lived, both literally and figuratively, on the margins of urban society. Crowded into industrial districts on the peripheries of St. Petersburg and Moscow, they often had little contact with other social classes. Working long hours for low wages, few workers had the time or money to enjoy the cultural and recreational opportunities that urban life could offer. Illiteracy exacerbated the cultural isolation of many workers. Although basic literacy rates rose steadily from the 1860s, nearly half of Russia’s factory workers could neither read nor write, according to the census of 1897. To be sure, literacy levels were much higher in large cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow, especially among skilled, younger male workers .3 Less skilled or female workers were less likely to be literate, and also less likely to take advantage of the cultural opportunities offered by urban life. At Moscow’s Tsindel cotton mill, which employed large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, a 1900 survey of over 1,400 workers found that only 2 percent had ever been to a public lecture, 9 percent to a circus , and 11 percent to a performance at one of the city’s theaters. Even though both the Tretiakov Gallery and the Rumiantsev Museum were but a short walk from the factory, few workers had visited either. Only the Polytechnic Museum had attracted a significant percentage of the Tsindel workers (43 percent), because, they explained, it was located near the flea market where they purchased clothing, shoes, and other necessities.Among skilled workers, who were more likely to be literate, participation in urban cultural life was more common—a third of the metal workers employed at the Tsindel factory had attended a performance at a city theater, and half had visited the Tretiakov Gallery.4 The focal points of workers’ existence were the factory, the dormitory or communal apartment (artel’), and the tavern. Many factories resembled self-contained towns, with shops and lodgings on the premises. Workers found respite from hard work and overcrowded living conditions in the taverns ; usually in close proximity to the workplace, they were a central part of male working-class sociability.5 Among male workers, the most common form of recreation was heavy drinking, which frequently led to violent brawls: Twice a month, on Saturday paydays, our artel indulged in wild carousing . Some, as soon as they had collected their pay, would go directly from the factory to beerhalls, taverns, or to some grassy spot, whereas others, the somewhat more dandified types, first went back to the apartment to change clothes. Somber, cross, often bruised, and in some cases still in a state of undiluted intoxication, the inhabitants of our artel would return home late at night or on Sunday morning.6 Russia’s industrialists viewed their workers’ drinking customs with dismay , as a symptom of their low cultural level and lack of self-control. As early as 1867, Ludwig Nobel, owner...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780520925878
Related ISBN
9780520225947
MARC Record
OCLC
52862196
Pages
364
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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